Family Travel: Sticking to the Limits

By Sam Braybon 2021-04-07 12:17:46

If there is one thing that we’ve learned about travel over the last year or so, it’s that we’re all just going to have to be a little more flexible when it comes to planning. There are times we’ll be able to fly to sunny beaches in Sanya or gorgeous mountain ranges in Yunnan Province, and they’ll be times we’ll need to stick much closer to home. 

But when you stop and think about it, staying in Shanghai can have some pretty big advantages. Not only are you and your kids learning more about the place that we all call home, you’re also supporting local businesses, reducing your carbon footprint and almost certainly saving some cash in the process. Awesome, right? With that in mind here are three family-centric day trips that you can keep in your back pocket for the next time the long-distance travel isn’t possible. They’ll not only satisfy that inevitable yearning for a bit of adventure – however close to home you may be – but also keep you safely within those all-important Shanghai city limits! 

Xinchang: Perfect for Younger Families

You’ve been to the famous watertowns like Wuzhen, but this hidden gem in the deepest depths of Pudong has loads more low key charm than its rivals, and what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in personality. Xinchang began as a centre for salt trading 800 years ago when wealthy merchants settled and constructed exquisite mansions, some of which can still be seen today. Wandering the cobbled backstreets here there is very much a sense that this remains a working town with a genuine sense of community, and you’ll likely encounter locals selling fresh vegetables from their doorways as well as craftsmen making everything from giant bamboo steamers and traditional lanterns to watering cans, all by hand. This makes an excellent half day expedition which can be rounded off with a tasty canal-side lunch or perhaps a rooftop refreshment at one of the cutesy coffee shops here. 

Getting There: Xinchang Ancient Town is 35 km from downtown Shanghai (about one hour by car) or take Line 16 to Xinchang Station and a short taxi ride from there. Entrance is free. 

Qingpu: Run Wild and Free

There are times that even the most unapologetic urbanites amongst us feel the call of the wild. And look, we’re not going to pretend that there is any real remoteness within Shanghai’s borders - but there are parts of Qingpu in which you can hear birdsongs and feel the grass beneath your feet! When we have energetic kids in tow we sometimes head to the underrated Oriental Land close to Dianshan Lake. This huge park boasts acres of grassy fields that are perfect for romping across or picnicking on. For youngsters that enjoy a physical challenge there are impressive assault courses to be tackled plus the chance to take part in giant outdoor games of chess, try your hand at kayaking or hit the cycle paths with a rented bike. By the end of the day here, your kids are likely to be utterly exhausted, as well as that bit closer to becoming bonafide extreme sports enthusiasts. Oriental Land is some way out of the city, so making a weekend of it is a good option here, and whilst the park does have its own hotel, we suggest you head to the nearby watertown of Zhujiajiao (just one stop on the nearby metro, or a short drive) where there are lots of local B&Bs to choose from, and parents can relax with a canal-side beer in the evening whilst the kids sleep off their adventures. 

Getting There: Oriental Land (东方绿舟) is 50 km from downtown Shanghai (about 75 minutes by car) or take Line 17 to Oriental Land and walk for 10 minutes. Tickets are 50 RMB!

Songjiang: Curious Kids Will Love It

Your kids are history buffs, and have visited countless historical sites in town, so what next for budding historians? Well, before the Shanghai we know even existed, Songjiang was kind of a big deal and the excellent Guangfulin Relics Park will tell you all about it. Built right on top of an archaeological site, artifacts dating back 5,000 years have been unearthed and displayed here, showing just what a politically and culturally important town this was. Far more than your typical dry museum, this is a huge outdoor complex that with multiple exhibition halls (and plenty of space to run about in between them). The park includes some pretty bombastic architecture, from a ‘sunken’ museum built below the surface of a lake to a full-size replica of a Tang Dynasty temple and far more. It’s equal parts educational and eccentric which is a welcome combination as far as we are concerned, and one that will keep curious kids engaged for a good few hours. There are places to eat on site too, but if you still have the energy you could consider heading to the lovely Chenshan Botanical Garden, located right next door, for a picnic. 

Getting There: Guangfulin Relics Park (广富林文化遗址公园) is 40 km from downtown Shanghai (about one hour by car) or take subway line 9 to Songjiang University Town and then a short taxi ride. Tickets are 50 RMB for adults and 25 RMB for kids.